Jesus told his disciples this parable: “A man going on a journey called in his stewards and entrusted his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one–to each according to his ability. Then he went away. After a long time the master of those stewards came back and settled accounts with them. The one who had received five talents came forward bringing the additional five. He said, ‘Master, you gave me five talents. See, I have made five more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy.’” (Matthew 25:14-15, 19-21)
Stewardship is an idea we instinctively associate with financial giving. Growing up Catholic, whenever the pastor would bring up stewardship, it was in reference to some financial appeal or project that needed monetary support. Yet, if we examine the Scriptures, we see that stewardship is more than just a principle for financial giving. In fact, in our Gospel this weekend, Jesus’ parable of the talents reveals the spiritual foundation of stewardship. In reflecting on this passage, three aspects of stewardship emerge.
First, stewardship reminds us that everything we have is a gift. A man going on a journey called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them. Cultivating the virtue of stewardship means that we recognize and appreciate that God has gifted us generously. Sometimes, we do not consider the ways that God has blessed us, or do not fully appreciate the gifts and talents we’ve been given. When I was in Catholic school, I remember being taught, “Don’t let a day go by without counting your blessings.” This simple advice has been very helpful as a healthy spiritual practice. Naming our talents and blessings opens our heart to the power of God who gifts us. Appreciating the gift connects us to the giver.
Second, we have a responsibility to cultivate and develop the gifts we’ve been given. Consider that in the parable, the master does not micromanage his stewards, but simple gives them the freedom to invest their talents wisely. When God gifts us, He does not compel or force us to use them responsibly. Rather, he entrusts them to us in the hope that we develop them for the good of others. Notice also that the Master in the parable is patient; he does not demand an accounting right away, but gives ample time to his stewards. After a long time the master of those stewards came back and settled accounts with them. God’s patience is one of the primary gifts we’ve been given. Though we can often fail to use the gifts we been given or are focused on the five talents of our neighbor instead of the two we’ve been given, God never fails to give us ample opportunity to grow in virtue and charity. The unfaithful steward fails not because he loses the talent, but because he buries it. God doesn’t give up on us if we fail, but we fail if we stop striving to use and share the gifts we’ve been given.
Third, stewardship activates the joy of generosity. When the faithful stewards offer their increased talents back to the Master, they are eager to give back what they’ve been given. We too are called not simply to grow in virtue as if we’re engaged in a private spiritual exercise, but to share what we’ve been given with others. If we are growing in virtue, it should be a blessing to others as well. A sign of this is joy. Upon receiving the steward’s talents the Master invites them to come, share your master’s joy. If we are in any doubt as to how or where we are called to use our gifts, we might ask “where do we find joy?” For wherever there is joy, we can be sure that God’s gifts are alive. We are called this weekend to be faithful stewards, to receive God’s gifts, to develop them patiently, and to share them with joy!
~ Fr. Michael Hurley, O.P.